Jun 23, 2021

We’ve all heard stories about employees’ resistance to robotic process automation (RPA) across the financial services industry, driven by the fear that “bots” would take over their jobs.

So we were surprised, in the course of our recent research on RPA, when we asked the Cutter membership, made up of 6,000 individuals and 200-plus investment management firms around the world, if their employees expressed this same kind of fear and they replied, “Well, not really.” In fact, very few member firms reported that their employees expressed trepidation about losing their jobs to a bot, and only a few indicated that employees were apathetic or skeptical about the ROI of RPA.

Overall, our members said that their employees were accepting ─ and even enthusiastic, in some cases ─ about RPA’s arrival, especially if the RPA benefits were clearly articulated and demonstrated. Perhaps most significant was that several firms reported a widespread, unexpected side benefit of implementing RPA processes ─ it reenergized overworked employees and sparked innovative ideas from staff members.

RPA to the Rescue!

A common theme we heard was that the most overworked employees quickly became the biggest RPA evangelists. Forty-five percent of Cutter member firms have implemented RPA for repeatable manual processes, particularly in operations. And these employees came out of the woodwork (or out from behind their desks) and cried, “My workload is overwhelming me, and, yes, I would like to find out how a bot can help!”

Eager for help, the employees embraced innovation, wanted to do more meaningful work, and welcomed the opportunity to take a vacation day (or even a coffee break) without feeling guilty or dreading a backlog of tedious tasks when they returned to their desks.

Some firms we spoke to came to realize that the true benefit was not RPA itself – but rather the ancillary effect of breathing new life and innovative thinking into their organizations. The opportunity to use RPA brought about fresh, creative ideas for innovation that came from all different areas of the firm. These ideas were strategic, tactical, and sometimes included painfully obvious and long-overlooked opportunities for efficiency. Interestingly, some of the suggested RPA ideas were deemed to be best solved by a traditional technology already available ─ and not RPA.

Inspired and Energized by Bots

For many years now, asset management firms have sought to manage costs and find new ways to grow more efficient, with employee-driven efficiency programs becoming commonplace. So what is it about RPA and bots that brought forth these untapped ideas for innovation? Is it the “bots are cool” factor? Is it that RPA is in the headlines, and people want to be part of it?

We believe the explanation is even simpler ─ RPA is a versatile tool, with low-code development features. It inspires a “why not?” mindset.

So, if your firm is on a path to add or expand RPA, or you’re just trying to generate more innovation within your organization, remember the importance of clear communication, good change management, and getting all the appropriate groups involved.

A guilt-free day off, thanks to RPA, might be all the incentive that overworked employees need to express that big innovative idea that has been percolating inside them all along. Who knew a bot could bring that out?

Want to learn more? Read our whitepaper and look for our new research report on this topic to be available soon here.

Contact us at connect@cutterassociates.com to discuss this topic, or learn more about Cutter membership.

Stacia Graham has more than 20 years of experience in investment management, bringing a deep understanding of end-to-end asset management processing and project management to her role as Managing Director and Asset Management Lead of the research team at Cutter.

Senior Research Analyst Laura Jesson has more than 20 years of experience in the financial services industry as a project manager, business analyst, and consultant. She joined Cutter Associates in 2013.